As writers, we tend to be somewhat imaginative. As well as living through them, we absorb the events and conversations in our lives, the various fictions we consume, and the general bits and pieces that make a life lived in. When there’s things we haven’t experienced ourselves, we extrapolate, finding a frame of reference we can relate to, or simply make it up.
We put all of this together, and create new histories and potential futures, giving birth to souls that will never be flesh, yet putting them through a gauntlet of emotions amplified strong enough that those that read it can be moved by their plight.
Or as the non-creatives would say, we lie. Liars, the lot of us.
Our experiences, both the things we go through ourselves and the things we observe, are transformed by the creative process into something universal. We can’t know with certainty what’s going on in somebody’s head (and oftentimes, our own), but we can read the words on the page. There may be subtext present we don’t pick up, but the base arguments being presented, those are literally spelled out on the page.
One of the common questions asked of writers (somewhere after “Hey, I’ve got an idea for a book, can you write it for me?” and “You can’t steal it but can I tell you my idea for a story I’m going to write one day?“), is where do you get your ideas from. I don’t really get the question myself (it’s happened, but rarely) as hey, not an established author – but I see it all the time. The answer is usually the same: life. Truth is, everything comes from life.
There’s a few writing exercises that suggest going to the newspaper and picking out a few articles, then tying them together in some way. Those types of exercises were very formative for my own writing processes, which for me eventually turned into my Elements Method. There’s always something with a degree of drama to be found in the newspaper, either conflict or tension, and those are the things you need for your story to hold interest and uncertainty.
Sometimes you can read an interesting article, and it gives you an idea.
On rare occasions, the news can repeat an idea.
See, I have really poor habits when it comes to writing. I don’t do it as much as I should or for as long as I should, but I’m able to keep it going consistently throughout the year, which is more than I can say for my efforts in previous years. I’m not counting the blog in that assessment either. As for the actual writing, I tend to err on the side of recklessness, which means when I first began writing the future versions of my cities and potential future technologies that I was sure I was making up, I didn’t care so much about how realistic they were. It was storytelling alone, and if the details didn’t measure up, I would either patch them until they did (while preserving plot relevance) or handwave over it.
While you could generalise this story as science fiction, it’s more on the Battlestar/Doctor Who/Star Trek/Star Wars side of story comes before science, almost science fantasy. (side bar: yes, trek is science fantasy. It’s not a bad thing, but so much technoplotdevice)
(Note: The links below are not related to writing at all)
At the start of FMTEE, one of the major characters is called out to a warehouse where a lifeless body has been found. It’s completely/utterly devoid of blood, and the pigmentation of the flesh was a translucent milky-white. Cue me later finding this story, on ghost hearts. For not-yet-disclosed reasons, my futuristic take on Seattle has a lot of underground development – big tunnels that’d been converted into emergency housing for the poorer demographics. Later, I found out about Bertha.
There’s also a throwaway line in the story, which relates to what’s going on in the world of the story, but that had an echo in some news I saw this morning – NASA considering a small greenhouse on Mars. Between that and an article on Antarctica (which plays another big part), there’s some reflection between the news of the day, and what’s going on in my current draft.
I think the way things can fall together when writing is one of the main sources of joy – be it because the real world is investigating the same paths as your fictional one, because small details you’ve added become relevant to the plot, or because there’s enough truth and serendipity around your fabrications that it’s a beautiful lie you tell.